The need for a uniform civil code

60-year-old Shah Bano went to court seeking maintenance from her husband who had divorced her. The court ruled in her favour - maintenance from her ex-husband under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code with an upper limit of Rs. 500 a month. This was not the first such judgment granting a divorced Muslim woman maintenance under Section 125 like all Indian women. But the orthodox lobby termed the verdict an attack on Islam.

When a court in India ruled in favour of 60-year-old Shah Bano, granting her maintenance (under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code with an upper limit of Rs. 500 a month) from her ex-husband who had divorced her, it was not the first such judgment granting a divorced Muslim woman maintenance under Section 125 like all Indian women. But the orthodox lobby termed the verdict an attack on Islam.

Received the following note via email from Justice Katju in New Delhi, posted below. He has also posted it to his blog.

Uniform Civil Code

The refusal to modernise Muslim law or enact a common civil code has contributed to keeping Muslims backward in India, and has thus done great harm to Muslims

By Justice Markandey Katju

The issue of a uniform civil code has recently been raised. I am fully in support of a uniform civil code.

Article 44 of the Indian Constitution states : “The state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. Continue reading

The Orangi Pilot Project and Legacy of Architect Perween Rehman @ MIT

Arif Hasan: Architect with ethics

Arif Hasan and Perween Rehman: Architects with ethics

Parveen Rehman, photo by Steve Inskeep, NPR

Perween Rehman, photo by Steve Inskeep, NPR

 An abbreviated version of my article on the symposium held at MIT to commemorate Perween Rehman and her legacy was published in The News on Sunday last weekend, titled Commitment personified. Below, the full text with additional links and photos:  

Speakers at a symposium in the Boston area last week, on “The Orangi Pilot Project and Legacy of Architect Perween Rehmanpaid tribute to the late architect and OPP director, as “a woman, architect and social activist”. They also discussed parallels between the issues faced by the urban poor in and elsewhere. Hosted by the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the symposium featured prominent academics from India, Pakistan and the United States. The event, spearheaded by graduate students Fizzah Sajjad and Hala B. Malik from Lahore, had been in the planning soon after the murder of Perween Rehman in Karachi on March 13, 2013. Continue reading

Afridi’s googly and CII’s no ball

Afridi kitchenUpdated version of my PERSONAL POLITICAL column published in The News op-ed and TOI blogs on Friday

Beena Sarwar

Shahid Afridi’s googly lobbed at women’s cricket in Pakistan in an interview, dismissing women as just good cooks, went viral on social media over the past few days.

And recently, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) decreed that Pakistani laws that prohibit under-age marriage and place conditions on a married man’s attempts to take another wife are ‘un-Islamic’.

Ostensibly very different, both stem from the same patriarchal mind-set that sees women as inferior to men, justifying itself by invoking religion or cultural traditions. Continue reading

Pakistani Women Hit Hurdles in Medical Profession

Left to right, medical student Saima Firdous, Dr Jamila Khalil, Sarah Peck, Dr Khalil Khatri Credit: Beena Sarwar

Left to right, medical student Saima Firdous, Dr Jamila Khalil, Sarah Peck, Dr Khalil Khatri. Photos: Beena Sarwar

My report for Inter Press Service, March 8, 2014. Picked up by newspapers around the world – I like the headline Asia Times gave it: Women doctors say what ails Pakistan

BOSTON, United States, Mar 8 2014 (IPS) – On one of her many visits to Pakistan recently, Sarah Peck, director of the US-Pakistan Women’s Council, spent some time talking to young women medical students in Pakistan. She was struck by their passion and commitment — and by the hurdles they face.

The US-Pakistan Women’s Council is working with expatriate Pakistani doctors to find ways to encourage women qualifying as doctors in Pakistan to practice medicine.

Women outnumber male students in medical colleges across Pakistan, forming up to 85 percent of the student body in private universities and 65 percent in the public sector. Continue reading

The February 12 pledge, terrorism, and the Malala connection

Lahore, Feb 12, 1983: Police lathi charge demonstrators. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

Lahore, Feb 12, 1983: Police lathi charge demonstrators. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

The News published a slightly toned down version of my article, The Feb 12 pledge. Un-edited text below, followed by a postscript linking this struggle to Malala. More photos at this link.

Renewing the Feb 12 pledge

By Beena Sarwar

Every February 12 we commemorate Pakistan Women’s Day in honour of those who gathered at Lahore’s Regal Chowk on that day in 1983, defying the military order against public gatherings, to protest Gen. Zia’s ‘Law of Evidence’ that upheld the testimony of a male as equal to that of two females in a court of law. The police attacked the demonstrators with batons and arrested several, including the venerated poet Habib Jalib whom Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif is fond of quoting. Continue reading

‘My years with WAF’ – Zohra Yusuf on the Pakistani women’s movement

Below, an article by Zohra Yusuf, my first editor, with whom I worked at The Star Weekend in 1981-82, outlining the birth of the women’s movement in Pakistan

Lahore, Feb 12, 1983: Police brutality on the women's demonstration against the 'Law of Evidence' catapulted the nascent women's movement into the limelight. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

Lahore, Feb 12, 1983: Police brutality on the women’s demonstration against the ‘Law of Evidence’ catapulted the nascent women’s movement into the limelight. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

“My years with WAF” 

By Zohra Yusuf | Article written for a souvenir on WAF’s 25th anniversary, Oct 2006

Certain memories are etched on the mind. The birth of Women’s Action Forum is, for me, surely among them. It was on an afternoon in September 1981 that Aban Marker (Shirkatgah) called. She told me about the distressed call she had just received from Najma Sadeque (another SG founding member) regarding the case of Fehmida-Allah Bux. Pakistan’s first sentence of death by stoning and public whipping handed down to a couple under the Zina Ordinance of 1979. We had all read about the sentence and in our individual capacities felt deeply disturbed. After a bit of discussion, we decided to call a meeting of all women’s organizations at Aban’s place. The rest, as they say, is history. Continue reading

“It’s not just India….”

It’s not just India… 

nilanjana s roy

That girl, the one without the name. The one just like us. The one whose battered body stood for all the anonymous women in this country whose rapes and deaths are a footnote in the left-hand column of the newspaper.

Sometimes, when we talk about the history of women in India, we speak in shorthand. The Mathura rape case. The Vishaka guidelines. The Bhanwari Devi case, the Suryanelli affair, the Soni Sori allegations, the business at Kunan Pushpora. Each of these, the names of women and places, mapping a geography of pain; unspeakable damage inflicted on women’s bodies, on the map of India, where you can, if you want, create a constantly updating map of violence against women.

For some, amnesia becomes a way of self-defence: there is only so much darkness you can swallow. They turn away from all the places that have become shorthand for violence beyond measure…

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